|Activists of the Adivasi National Co-ordination Committee block NH31C in Kokrajhar on Monday. Telegraph picture
Kokrajhar, Sept. 2: Assam witnessed blockades and protests by various communities demanding ST status today, with a vehicle being torched by protesters at Sisiborgaon in Dhemaji district.
The day started off with a six-hour blockade of NH31C by the Adivasi National Coordination Committee from 8am to press their demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
In Kokrajhar district, hundreds of slogan shouting tea tribe community members armed with banners, placards and festoons blocked the highway and disrupted traffic at Karigaon.
The committee is an umbrella body of several Adivasi organisations, including All Adivasi Studentís Association of Assam, All Santali Students Union, Birsa Commando Force, Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam and Adivasi Seva Samiti.
Its spokesperson, Birsing Munda, who is also the commander-in-chief of Birsa Commando Force, said the blockade was enforced in protest against the governmentís attitude towards granting ST status to tea tribes and Adivasis of Assam.
Stating that the community had been demanding ST status since the last 50 years, Munda demanded tripartite talks on the issue so that it could be resolved at the earliest. He said the Adivasi community enjoyed ST status in different parts of the country, even in Tripura, but not in Assam.
Union tribal affairs minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo, in reply to a question by Assam Rajya Sabha MP Santiuse Kujur, had recently said in Parliament that the community did not fulfil the five criteria required for identification as a Scheduled Tribe.
The committee leaders threatened to start a mass agitation like a rail blockade on September 5 at Kokrajhar railway station if the government did not respond to their demands.
Munda said they were also planning an all-party meeting at Guwahati on September 8 to discuss Deoís statement in Parliament and also the their future course of their protest programme.
In Dibrugarh, the All Tai Ahom Studentsí Union, Moran Studentsí Union, Motok Juba Chatra Sanmilani, Tai Ahom Mohila Got protested for three hours at Mohanbari airport demanding tripartite talks on the ST status issue.
The Chutia Studentsí Union, too, protested in Dhemaji district over the same demand. The protesters also damaged a Scorpio vehicle coming from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam in Sisiborgaon area.